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McCormick School Unites Two Departments

September 20, 2005

The Robert R. McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science at Northwestern University has established a new department that unites computer science, electrical engineering and computer engineering. 

The new department of electrical engineering and computer science (EECS) is the result of the restructuring of the department of electrical and computer engineering (ECE) and the department of computer science (CS), said Julio M. Ottino, dean of the school. 

“This restructuring represents a new opportunity for all of us -- a way to move toward a bright future for computer science and electrical and computer engineering research at McCormick,” Ottino said. “A great engineering school like ours must have a great EECS department, and this merger will definitely move us toward that goal.”

Bruce Wessels, Walter P. Murphy Professor of Materials Science and Engineering and Electrical and Computer Engineering at Northwestern, will lead the department at this critical period of unification, effective Sept. 1. He will spearhead initiatives that maximize the expanded connectivity that the merger provides. One of Wessels’ goals is to provide leadership while a national search for his successor is conducted, Ottino said.

Wessels has been a member of the Northwestern faculty since 1977 and is internationally recognized for his research on electronic, magnetic and photonic materials and devices. He is the author of 255 articles and co-author of five books, and has been awarded 13 patents.

The new department facilitates and strengthens existing interactions between the two former departments.  For example, electrical engineering faculty working to advance image processing might benefit from collaboration with computer science faculty with interests in graphics and interactive media, and electrical engineering faculty with interests in nanoelectronics might work with computer engineers and scientists to develop new architecture and operating systems.

The reorganization, coupled with the move of computer science from its off-campus location, also will place faculty members closer together. Faculty in the new department will have offices in both the Technological Institute and the new Ford Motor Company Engineering Design Center, which are linked by a bridge.

Ottino said the new department will be organized in divisions that will work with each other to support the EE, CE, and CS curriculums in a way that provides a world-class experience for undergraduate and graduate students, including new graduate-level classes within and across the divisions for master’s and doctoral students.

The new EECS divisions are:

Solid State and Photonics. This division contains faculty whose main research interests include the design, analysis and proof-of-concept development of solid-state and photonic devices and systems.

Signals and Systems. This division broadly covers signals including images and other forms of information and their acquisition, representation, processing, analysis and interpretation, coding, transmission through networks, wireless and other channels, and the control of linear and non-linear dynamic systems.

Computing, Algorithms, and Applications. This division contains faculty whose research emphasis is the further development and application of computational and algorithmic tools useful in ever more powerful computing environments.

Computer Engineering and Systems. This division conducts research in architecture, operating systems, distributed and parallel systems, compilers, the interface with software systems, robotics, databases, VLSI, networking (including security), and performance analysis.

Cognitive Systems. This division conducts research focused on understanding how the mind works (with a computational focus) and on creating systems for education, performance support, and entertainment that exploit principles of cognitive science and artificial intelligence.

Graphics and Interactive Media. This division contains faculty whose research goal is the interaction of data, information, and images as gathered, processed, and presented by a computational system with humans.

The reorganization follows extensive consultation with faculty members and the department chairs, Ming-Yang Kao of computer science and Abraham Haddad  of electrical and computer engineering.

The process also included consultation with the Northwestern administration, the McCormick advisory board, boards of both departments, and scholars in the fields.

Topics: University News